12 Pictures That Show the Different Ways Depression Manifests

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

The symptoms of depression are often invisible to the outside world. That is why, many times, when you’re in the throes of depression, it can feel like no one understands. On the other hand, it can be just as hard to be the one trying to understand — but can’t.

Because of this, sometimes it’s easier to use photos to help us explain what words can’t quite grasp. So if you’re familiar with depression, these photos might feel relatable, or might help you better understand someone who is struggling.

1. When you want to hide from the rest of the world.

woman laying underneath blankets

“This is a picture I’ve been wanting to post on Facebook to show what it’s like living with depression. I call it ‘when depression hits.’ It was taken one afternoon [when] I had to put on my face, do the ‘normal’ adult day-to-day things and then the afternoon comes around and I just can’t do it anymore. Sometimes I wish more people could understand what it’s like to [struggle] in such a way.” — Dani C.

2. Struggling with suicidal thoughts.

man looking at a gun while sitting on couch

“[This] is a self portrait I took and it’s a reenactment of the first time I sat home alone, at Christmas, trying to decide whether or not I’d live or die. It wasn’t a sudden epiphany, crystal clear mind, message from God or any kind of mental strength. Ultimately, it was a chance message from a dear friend who saved my life. Amy, who is working to overcome her own depression, reached out because she felt like something was amiss. If not for her gut feeling, it’s likely I wouldn’t be here today. Everything I accomplish, every life I touch and every difference I make is because she chose to reach through the darkness. I literally owe my life to her.” — Shawn H.

3. The self-doubt and self-hate that makes you to shut down (while others might assume it’s “laziness”).

a woman looks sad

This is me when I’m at home all day every day and family and others think I’m lazing around drinking, smoking or having a great time not working [and] getting free money, when in my reality, I sit in my own head criticizing myself, hurting myself, hating myself, fearing every little thing, overthinking every little thing. [It has] forced to live in my worst memories over and over and over… I wouldn’t want anyone to feel what I feel, but I wish they understood how awful it feels to be me sometimes and that I don’t want this, I didn’t choose this — I hate this!” — Karen C.

4. Avoiding posting on social media, because you’re afraid of being called “attention seeking.”

two women sitting in psych ward hospital room

“This picture is something I have wanted to post but don’t due to society — especially with my age group. The fear of being called an ‘attention seeker’ always sticks to the back of my head. I am someone who is extremely open [about] my depression, but struggle when it comes to bringing awareness and letting people know I understand. This picture was taken my second week [at the] hospital. The reason I want to post the picture is because I want to show people how far I have come. I was hospitalized three times in two years and can’t even name all the different medications I have tried. People say I am not my depression, but I have been depressed for so long. I don’t know who I am without it.” — Michaela H.

5. Struggling with “hidden” depression.

woman looks at camera serious

“In this picture, I was trying to front that life was fine. I was trying to trick everyone into believing that things were good and I was happy, when the reality was every day was spent in fear and misery. I’m really glad those days are behind me for good. “ — Gina B.

6. When depression affects your ability to do even the little things.

That was my room during a week I had an episode of depression. Before, clothes were piled on the floor. Trash was everywhere. The "wellness" side is my room now, when I started feeling better again. I was finally able to clean and declutter the past few days. The “depressed" side made me feel so ashamed when I was living in it. Right now I am choosing to share this because I want to break some stigma surrounding mental illness. And once we own our struggles, any shame that was keeping our mouths sealed shut is set free by the strength of speaking our truth. My depression, something I've struggled with for nearly a decade, makes me feel sad and isolated. But I feel like no one talks beyond what is “acceptable”. Saying, “I was depressed and couldn’t get out of bed all day”, is worlds different from, “I felt like a boulder was weighing me down. I might not look sick or hurt, and it is clear a boulder was not weighing me down, but I could not move all day. Also, my depression was so debilitating that I couldn't take a shower, change my clothes, brush my teeth or wash my face. So I smelled terrible and looked disheveled”. What I’m saying is that very often, we only share so many details – maybe trying not to scare or worry others. But hell, it’s time we start talking about the reality of depression. I struggle with depression, and 350 million of your fellow human beings struggle too. We need to show the nitty-gritty of mental illness. Shame keeps our mouths sealed. But every time we rip off the tape to say, “I am struggling and this is what it’s like”, we set our truth free, which opens the possibility for others to show compassion and try to understand. You deserve to feel free and you deserve help. Your depression may not look like mine, but your struggles are valid – if it’s a physical mess in your room, physically not taking good care of yourself, or even an invisible but very present mess in your mind, it matters and you matter. I want you to feel this same freedom I feel right now from cleaning my room. Speak your truth. Because even though not everyone listens, I will. We must rise above this shame we feel so we can get well and finally live again.

A post shared by Lexie (@lexiemanion) on

In an Instagram post, Lexie Manion, mental health advocate, said, “That was my room during a week I had an episode of depression. Before, clothes were piled on the floor. Trash was everywhere. The ‘wellness’ side is my room now, when I started feeling better again. I was finally able to clean and declutter the past few days.  The ‘depressed’ side made me feel so ashamed when I was living in it. Right now I am choosing to share this because I want to break some stigma surrounding mental illness. And once we own our struggles, any shame that was keeping our mouths sealed shut is set free by the strength of speaking our truth.”

7. When your smile covers up your mental health struggles.

husband and wife stand smiling after completing a race

“My wife and I ran a 8.92 mile race on the 4th of July. My fear in sharing photos like this is that people will assume because we look happy and healthy — that I couldn’t possibly still be depressed. Especially in Christian circles, people wrongly assume depression is either demonic or temporary, and that some magic Jesus pill can magically ‘fix’ us. I could have just as easily shared a picture of me, playing with my kids or standing behind the pulpit during a Sunday church service or any number of ‘normal’ things. My fear in showing these is that people forget I still have a mental illness. But I can never forget. Because, behind the smiling face, there’s a guy with a brain that’s wired just a little bit different.” — Steven A.

8. When depression makes you feel overwhelmed.

woman who is sad and crying and hopeless

I took this picture three days ago. The overwhelming emotion I felt at the time was utter hopelessness. [I thought], nothing will ever be better no matter how hard I try to change things. I’ll always be this way. I’ll never be good enough. Life will never stop being an unbearable struggle. I don’t remember why I took the picture — I had no intention of showing it to anyone. I don’t like showing moments of despair to people. It might make them feel obligated to help in some way. More than that, it’s ugly and raw. It’s uncomfortably real. For me, depression isn’t a wistful look off into the distance or stroking a wall looking glum. For me it’s chest-crushing grief, it’s tsunamis of snot and tears on my puffy, red face. No one wants to look at that. Selfies are meant to say, ‘Look at me being all cute today!’ not, ‘Look at me. I can’t do this anymore.’” — Lisa S.

9. When getting out of bed feels like a victory.

Jade stated on an Instagram post, “I struggled to get out of bed today. I forced myself to shower and then I lay back down. I struggled to find the drive to get back up again. But I did eventually and I’m in work. I guess that’s one small victory for today.”

10. When depression steals your creativity.

a photo composite of a woman being squeezed by a snake

As part of our Mighty Art submissions, Elesha Hudson told The Mighty, “This photo composite show how anxiety and depression make me feel. The anxiety squeezes until I can’t move or breathe while depression throws out my creative thoughts and replaces it with fuzz. Eventually I can’t even hold up my happy face.”

11. When you experience bouts of dissociation.

Diana R. said on Instagram, “So I guess this is the type of unflattering picture people post when they’re going through a rough patch. [I’ve] been experiencing dissociation (I don’t know how or what to do to make myself feel better so I just ‘sign out’). I feel like I’m not living in realtime, like I’m walking aimlessly not knowing what I’m going to do or where I’m headed. It’s just a haze. There’s a chill in the wind. That’s what brought me back to my senses, but I feel pretty shitty.”

12. When depression makes it hard to see anything good in the world.

drawing of woman with ropes covering her face

As part of our Mighty Art submissions, Braelyn Koop told The Mighty, “Having mental illness makes me feel blind to the beauty of the world. It feels as though I’m drowning in darkness. This piece helps me put a physical appearance to my depression, allowing me to begin to separate it from myself.”

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

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